Friday, January 20, 2017


Like many of you, I had a pretty sizable comic book collection in my younger years. And like many of you, I have absolutely no idea what happened to it. I remember some of the books I had. This one, pictured below, is said to be worth $75.00 to $100.00 these days.

Another comic I remember, the circa 1977 debut issue of the new hero Black Lightning, is currently going for up to $285.00.

So I might not have been able to pay for college had I sold off some of those books, but I think that I had a pretty respectable collection. It would have been nice to still have all those books, but they are now… who knows where. They are likely dust in the wind at this point.
Cut to many years later. My own children are now older than when I bought the aforementioned comics. We would sometimes go to one of the comic shops near my home. We usually treated ourselves to a theater trip when one of the big new superhero movies came out. In short: casual fans.
We were all out and about one day when we ventured into one of the aforementioned shops. The friendly proprietor informed us that the next Saturday would be “Batman Day” (I’m of the school of thought that every day is Batman Day, but whatever). He would have some grab bags for sale. $25.00 for around $70.00 worth of comics, graphic novels, and other merchandise.
I bought one, as did each of my twins. The shop owner wasn’t kidding when said that there would be north of $70.00 of value in that bag.  I found a couple of hardcover graphic novels, a paperback edition of Frank Miller’s classic, The Dark Knight Returns, along with a number of comics and other items. One of the comics in my grab bag was this one:

I have long been a huge Batman fan, so I read this one right away. The issue ended on a rather intriguing cliffhanger, so I soon acquired the next issue. And the one after that. And the one after-- (okay, as of this writing we are up to issue #14). I soon started buying All-Star Batman, Detective Comics, Batman Beyond, and Nightwing.
You may have noticed the DC Comics Rebirth banner atop the Batman cover. The DC Rebirth is a reboot/ reset/ initiative for the bulk of the DC Comics line. This reboot was about more than just book numbering… it was a rebirth of, as the powers that be at DC put it, ”optimism and legacy”.
The Rebirth branding also had some resonance for me personally. It was, obviously, a rebirth of my comic collecting hobby. I always had some comics around, odds and ends that I picked up here and there. I began frequenting my nearby shops, particularly on new release day. I started bagging and boarding my collection, and organized my books as well.
Collecting comics seems at once familiar and new. My inner pre-teen self is thrilled, while my adult side appreciates the opportunity to explore something new (ish). In addition, it certainly doesn’t hurt that my fifteen year old twins have also started collecting (anytime you can find an activity or interest you can share with your teenagers, YOU DO IT).
The storylines have been excellent as well. The multi-part “Night of the Monster Men” arc, played out over issues of Batman, Detective Comics, and Nightwing, was dramatic and action-packed. It had a great ending that solidified Batman’s place as my favorite hero.
“Night of the Monster Men” was followed up with “I Am Suicide”, another intense, multi-part storyline that took a deep (and dark) dive into Batman’s psychology.
All of the books that I have read so far have been compelling, well-written, and a lot of fun. Much of the art is spectacular too, as evidenced by this suitable for framing cover art…

So, of course, I’m thoroughly enjoying the stories and characters that I have been following. It’s also fun to stop in to the various comic book shops to pick up new issues and search for the pieces to fill the gaps in my collection. I am fortunate in that live within mere blocks of three different shops. Each one is different, and each one has its own charms. My kids and I frequent them all. It’s very easy to stop in to one or the other on the way to somewhere else, or walk to one on an otherwise lazy Saturday afternoon.

I couldn’t be happier that the DC Universe Rebirth initiative parallels my own rebirth of sorts as a comic collector. I can’t say exactly why I drifted away from comics, but I’m glad to be back.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Fun With Dream Analysis

Being a creative type person, I tend to have very vivid dreams.
A few weeks ago, just prior to the holiday season, I had what was among the most vivid dreams I ever had. I actually woke up slightly disoriented, feeling for a couple of minutes that the dream was quite real.
In the dream, I was wandering through a forest of sorts with one of my three sons. I didn’t have a strong sense of where we were. We may have been lost, but the environment seemed a bit familiar… perhaps because the area seemed a bit like the woods I frequently explored as a child. We eventually came upon a run-down house. It appeared to be standing only by the grace of a few nails and a couple posts that held up the exterior walls. I told my son to stand back as I took a step inside. The interior was mostly empty, save for a trash can, spilling over with garbage, off in one corner, and an old wooden chair near the center of the room. I opted not to step further inside, as I didn’t feel that it would be safe.
A heavyset older man went by, walking a large dog, perhaps a German Shepard. We all exchanged pleasantries. My son and I briefly petted the dog and parted ways with the man.
We walked and noticed another house, just yards away. This one was newer and well-appointed. It also was, apparently, occupied.  The large windows fairly well glowed with warmth and light from within. I could see two small white dogs, tails wagging, looking expectantly out one of the windows.
And then I woke up.
My first moderately coherent thought, as I sat up on the edge of my bed:
“When did my son and I go for a hike?”
“Where was this?”
It dawned on me just moments later that the forest adventure was a mere dream, albeit a very vivid one. I went about my morning routine that included a fresh pot of coffee and a good stretch, both in place to get mind and body started up for the day.
I started up my computer and went to I had discovered the site several years ago, in the aftermath of a series of deeply weird dreams I had been having. You search the site’s amazingly comprehensive database of possible dream imagery and review what it had to say. The interpretations are rooted in psychology, rather than any sort of metaphysics. This means that your dream analysis is not a definitive  attempt to predict your future. The site takes its cues from Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, and others. Your results are fairly subjective, especially when you have multiple symbolic signposts to consider. It’s also important to consider your interpretation through the filter of your own life’s events, particularly recent ones. Take the dream I referenced above. The main symbols were the forest, the two houses, and the dogs. Here are the results from the site:

“To see an abandoned house in your dream implies that you have left behind your past. You are ready to move forward toward the future. To see an old, run-down house in your dream represents your old beliefs, attitudes and how you used to think or feel. A situation in your current life may be bringing about those same old attitudes and feelings. Alternatively, the old house may symbolize your need to update your mode of thinking. If you see messy and/or dilapidated houses in your dream, then it implies that an aspect of your own life is in chaos. You may be suffering from some emotional or psychological clutter. You need to release these feelings in order to regain control.”

“To see a new house in your dream indicates that you are taking on a new identity and developing new strengths. You are becoming more emotionally mature.”

“To dream that you are in or walking through the forest signifies a transitional phase. Follow your instincts. Alternatively, it indicates that you want to escape to a simpler way of life. You are feeling weighed down by the demands of your life.”

“To dream that you are lost in a forest indicates that you are searching through your subconscious for a better understanding of yourself.”

“To see a dog in your dream symbolizes intuition, loyalty, generosity, protection, and fidelity. The dream suggests that your strong values and good intentions will enable you to go forward in the world and bring you success. The dream dog may also represent someone in your life who exhibits these qualities. Alternatively, to see a dog in your dream indicates a skill that you may have ignored or forgotten.”

“To see a German Shepherd in your dream, highlights your protective instincts and attentiveness to a situation. This is no time for you to be nervous and/or lose control.”

I was consciously aware that I was undertaking some significant changes in my lifestyle. I had set a goal to move to a new residence, with a target of sometime in the fall of 2017. The house symbols could certainly be viewed in a literal sense. I think that the houses in the dream could also be viewed symbolically. In order to achieve my moving goal, I have been trying to make some internal changes. The symbolism around the old and new houses in my dream suggests that I am on the right track.
The forest imagery tells me that I am in a transitional phase (also a positive sign). I think there is also something to be said for “feeling weighed down by the demands of life”. I have a lot of competing priorities and I do admit that I feel overwhelmed at times. The dogs were there to remind me that I shouldn’t forget about my values as I draw closer to achieving my goal.
Lastly, just one of my three sons was in that dream… I’m guessing that is because he is the one that is pushing the hardest for me to move and is the most emotionally invested in that goal.

So don’t think of dream analysis as some sort of hokey mumbo-jumbo. It can be a very useful tool and perhaps a path to greater and deeper self-awareness. Feel grateful when you have one those weird, vivid dreams… it could very well be a case of your subconscious trying to send you an important message. Listen and reap the benefits.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Some Awesome Writing Books

I recently tore through one of those books that I probably should have read years ago. It’s The War of Art, and was written by man named Stephen Pressfield. You may not know his name, but you probably know his work… he is the author of (among many other books) The Legend of Bagger Vance, on which the popular movie was based.
The book is about Resistance (always capitalized, as if it were a pronoun). Resistance is one of those odd forces of nature that we never talk about but always experience. It pulls you down with the weight of an anvil and inhibits writing, art, and all manner of goals and dreams. The first part of The War of Art puts you face-to-face with Resistance and helps you understand this mystery. The second half of the book gives you some guidance on how to face it down and (ideally) overcome it.
This book is not for everyone. It takes a deep dive into some Jungian philosophy (a far cry from the pop-psych insights one typically sees today). There is no bullet-pointed “action plan” or “Seven Splendiforous Ways to Overcome Your Creative Blocks”. The War of Art is philosophy, psychology, and memoir (and it’s heartening that such a well-regarded author has faced the very same demons and struggles that I have), a hearty buffet of food for thought.
It’s not a long book. It is certainly worth a read for any writer, artist, or entrepreneur.

Now onto the kinda/ sorta similarly titled (but very different) book, The Art of War for Writers. James Scott Bell is one of my very favorite writers that writes about writing. He takes the concepts that Chinese general Sun Tzu put forth in his perennial masterpiece, The Art of War, and applies them to the writing game.
This book is divided into three parts… Reconnaissance, Tactics, and Strategy. The Reconnaissance section concerns itself with an overarching view of one’s writing career and mentality. Tactics covers the particulars of writing good fiction, while Strategy tackles the business aspects of one’s writing career. The individual chapters are short and to the point.
The Art of War for Writers is well worth a read and ideal for keeping within reach of your writing space.

The Nighttime Novelist is an excellent, comprehensive book on the fiction writer’s craft. It is detailed, covering most of what you need to know to start and complete that novel you have been thinking about writing for years. There are sections on structure, characters, beginning, ending, and much more. The Nighttime Novelist is eminently readable, yet is organized enough that it can be used as a handy reference.

Speaking of “a handy reference”, The Creative Writer’s Style Guide has consistently served me well. It has been my go-to guide for years when it comes to those nitpicky questions with regards to comma placement within dialog or conditional verbs and what-not.

Born to Run is the autobiography of rock icon Bruce Springsteen. Reportedly, he wrote it entirely himself, completely without the help of a ghostwriter. It turns out that he is a damn good prose writer… there are some very vivid passages that are nearly as poetic as his lyrics. I am a long-time fan, but there is much to Bruce’s story that I didn’t know.
Why include Born to Run in a blog post about books for writers? The book is about, more than anything, the evolution of an artist and how his early life informed and resounded in his music and lyrics.

These are just a few of the many worthy writing books to be had. Here are some more just to round out the list.

  • Writer With a Day Job
  • The Productive Writer
  • Time to Write
  • Write Is a Verb
  • The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Creative Writing
  • The Everything Guide to Writing Your First Novel

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to actually go write some words now. Please don’t hesitate to chime in should you have a favorite book of your own to feature. I may write another, similar blog post (and I might even cover another medium, such as podcasts about writing). Keep your eyes peeled.